Literary Guide for Mo Willems’ “City Dog, Country Frog”

City Dog, Country Frog
by Mo Willems

Our Summer Reading Resource literary guide series continues this week with Western Massachusetts author Mo Willems’ City Dog, Country Frog,  a beautiful tale of friendship throughout the seasons. The tale begins in the summer, when the weather is warm, plants are green, and flowers are in bloom. City Dog visits the country, where he meets Country Frog – a curious amphibian whose habits, games, and surroundings are quite different from those of City Dog. Nevertheless, the two become great friends, and they discover that they each have much to teach the other. City Dog visits Country Frog during each of the seasons, and their activities reflect the energy and aesthetic of the transformation of their surroundings. During the summer, they focus on fun and games in the warm sun, and in the fall they decide to play remembering games – an activity that allows them to think and reflect, and to take in the beauty of the fiery fall leaves and the still, crisp air. When winter comes, City Dog takes a visit to the snowy countryside only to discover that his froggy friend is nowhere to be found. He waits for him to appear, but to no avail – Country Frog is mysteriously gone. Once spring comes and the ground thaws, City Dog visits again. Country Frog doesn’t turn up, but City Dog makes a new friend, Country Chipmunk, and the clever ending implies that they two are about to embark on a journey of friendship that will reflect the changes in season just as beautifully as City Dog’s adventures with Country Frog did.

While the text is fairly simple – making it ideal for younger students – the themes presented within the story can be accessed by students of all ages…

LITERARY GUIDE: The Literature Guide: City Dog, Country Frog is written for students in first grade, but the activities could be easily adapted for use with kindergarteners, or even second and third grade students. Discussions following a reading of the story can cover many different topics, including science-related themes, love and loss, and the intricacies of friendship. Country Frog’s disappearance can spark a family investigation into the life cycle and hibernation habits of frogs, while an examination of the relationship between dog and frog can help kids to better understand their own friendships. Activities presented in the literature guide also focus on teaching students to make (and understand) connections between the text and their own prior knowledge and experience. Younger students in particular will love sharing what they know about dogs and frogs, telling stories about their experiences with friends, and checking for signs of the seasons in their surroundings.

WESTERN MA RESOURCES: To further extend your family’s studies of the story, try reading some of Mo Willems’ other books and identifying common themes between them. Many of Willems’ books focus on friendship, especially those in the Elephant and Piggy series.  Families can check out Mo Willems’ The Red Elephant installation at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, and Northampton’s R. Michelson Gallery current exhibit of Willems’ illustrations from some of his best-loved children’s books and television animations through the end of August 2013. While City Dog, Country Frog isn’t featured at either, a visit to the museum and gallery is a great way to learn about the author/illustrator.

Families can also take advantage of the many opportunities available for exploring and learning about their surroundings. Exploring the local landscape and learning about the plants and animals present during the summer months is a great way to turn the story into a scientific endeavor. Kids can develop a more complex understanding of the change in surroundings experienced by City Dog by comparing and contrasting their understanding of a local meadow or forest with things that they notice in a more urban setting, like downtown Northampton, Holyoke, Greenfield, or Pittsfield. Check our Friday column, Learn Local. Play Local. for upcoming events that support nature explorations, and our list of weekly  Suggested Events for ongoing activities, like nature themed playgroups at Northfield Mountain every Friday morning, and drop-in nature discovery programs at the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation every Saturday morning in the summer.


ABOUT THE SERIES

Hilltown Families weekly Summer Reading Resource series shares downloadable guides of children’s literature from graduate students in the Integrated Learning teacher preparation program at Antioch University New England. Each literary guide pairs a featured book with suggestions for ways to help children expand their thinking, create connections to the text, and allow their literacy skills to grow. These guides contain outlines with discussion questions, art projects, outdoor adventures, and many other activities that are designed for use in classrooms but can very easily be adapted for use at home for supplemental education. Featured titles cover a wide variety of themes, lengths, and levels of difficulty – meaning there’s something for every family, and for every reader! Some are classics, some are lesser-known gems – but all of the books present potential for helping families build upon the stories that they read together. — Interested in featuring this series at your local library or school? Email Sienna at swildfield@hilltownfamilies.org.

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